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Skills & Knowledge

First PhD grad sets high standard

Michelle DeWolfe has set the bar high as the first PhD graduate of Laurentian University’s Earth Sciences program.

External examiner Dr. Anthony Fowler, a professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa, was impressed with the quality and high standard of work DeWolfe presented December 5, 2008 in defending her thesis on the Volcanic Reconstruction of the Paleoproterozoic Hidden and Louis Formations, Manitoba, Canada.

Dr. Harold Gibson, Laurentian University Earth Sciences professor and DeWolfe’s advisor, said the presentation was well received. She presented her thesis to a standing room-only audience of almost 50 people. “Everyone commented on the high quality of her work,” said Gibson.

After completing an extensive three-hour session, DeWolfe was all smiles as she made her way to a reception marking the end of her four-year journey. Her thesis involved detailed mapping of all the volcanic rocks above the copper, zinc and gold deposits in Flin Flon, Manitoba.

“I was able to reconstruct the environment of these volcanic rocks, thereby showing what the ancient volcanoes that these rocks represent would have looked like as they erupted on the sea floor millions of years ago,” DeWolfe explained. “This allowed me to put the location of the deposits into a detailed environment. I discovered that volcanic structures mapped in the rocks overlying the deposits controlled the formation of the deposits below and, therefore, can be used to find deposits at depth.”

Her research has led to new understandings of how and where these types of deposits form with practical applications for exploration not only in Flin Flon, but also in similar areas worldwide.

DeWolfe, who has accepted a teaching position at Mount Royal College in Calgary, commented on the high caliber of Laurentian University’s Earth Sciences graduate program and its faculty.

“The department is full of expertise in all areas of ore deposits and many other geological disciplines,” she said. “Harold (Gibson) is one of a handful of researchers in the world studying volcanology and how it relates to ore deposits, and his research always has a practical application for mining exploration companies. As such, his projects are almost always sponsored by industry. This practical application and funding is an enormous draw for any graduate student.”

Thesis committee members Steve Piercy and Bruno Lafrance were also supportive and complemented Gibson’s knowledge and experience.

Gibson said DeWolfe has made valuable contributions with the submission of three papers from her thesis to journals, increasing the research credentials of the university. Additionally, she was a “very good teacher” to the students in the undergraduate program, which raised the quality of the undergraduate teaching.

DeWolfe, who also studied under Gibson for her Master’s thesis, was one of Canada’s National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) scholars and a recipient of the first Mary-Claire Ward Geoscience Award.

“Michelle is an exceptional student,” Gibson said. “She is the brightest of the bright.”

DeWolfe is also an athlete who played university-level soccer, in addition to being a community-minded individual.

“She is an exceptional person all around,” Gibson said. “Everyone in this department has a great deal of respect for her.”

The program has received global recognition and currently has six international PhD candidates.

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